US Struggles to Find Destinations for ISIS Detainees in Syria

Kurds holding about 600 suspects from around the world

US officials say that the fate of hundreds of ISIS detainees held in Syria is uncertain, and that they are not ruling out sending some of them to Guantanamo Bay, refilling the detention facility there.

An estimated 600 non-Syrian suspects are being held by Kurdish forces in Syria. The US has been trying to find places to send them, and managed to get about two dozen of them sent to their nations of origin.

That may not be an option in many cases, as these people are from around 50 different countries, and officials say in many cases, those countries are just not interested in having them back.  How long the Kurdish YPG and its allies will want to keep them is anyone’s guess.

This detention system is legal limbo in the first place, and Guantanamo Bay is just a different legal limbo. Going into the ISIS war, US officials downplayed the idea of this being a problem, saying they figured all the ISIS would be killed, not captured.

That was never realistic, however. Now, ISIS-linked people who are captured are a long-term issue, and there is neither any advanced planning on what to do with them, nor much interest in resolving the situation any time soon.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.